WHAT EXACTLY IS LETTERPRESS?
Letterpress is a printing technique using raised plates to imprint the ink on the paper. It differs from both offset and digital printing in that the ink is pressed into the paper rather than laying it onto the sheet surface. Since letterpress utilizes raised plates rather than a blanket as in offset printing, or laser or ink jet as in digital printing, the letterpress impression can create an eye-catching debossed finish.
A LITTLE HISTORY
With early letterpress the deep impression into the paper was discouraged. It was the sign of an inexperienced pressman. Originally plates were made of copper, or in some cases wood, and the force to create the deeper impression crushed the plate, rendering it useless after just a few impressions. However with modern letterpress, more durable polymer plates are now the norm and thick, pillowy paper is often used to get a deeper impression. This highly textured look is now sought after and considered luxurious and classic. The letterpress plate can also be used without ink to create a debossed impression alone. This technique is known as a blind impression.
THE DECLINE AND COMEBACK
Mid-century, modern printing techniques became a more cost-effective method of mass reproduction and letterpress fell out of favor. The beautiful old presses (check these out) were forgotten and left to rust for decades. But graphic designers began to seek out the process in the stationery and invitation market and artisan printers rediscovered old presses in storage rooms and garages. As polymer plates became more accessible, letterpress enjoyed a solid resurgence and has staged a notable comeback in the last few years.
On occasion I’m asked about engraved invitations. Engraving was a popular process in the past and has been confused with letterpress. It’s still used when a very traditional look is desired, but has generally given way to other techniques. The process, essentially the opposite method used in letterpress, utilizes a flat plate that is engraved with the image. Ink catches in the engraved impression and is pressed onto the paper. The force of the plate on the paper causes a slight emboss where the engraved, inked portion of the plate is, creating a slight relief on the finished piece. The tactile quality is more subtle than that of modern letterpress impressions. Given the limited availability of printers who provide engraving and the involved set up process, engraving is costly and the lesser used technique at this point.
WHAT DOES THE BRIDAL PRESS USE?
In addition to letterpress and flat printing (offset and digital) there are a multitude of additional methods that can be used on a printed piece to give it its own character. These include but are not limited to foil stamping, die cutting, and embossing/debossing. As a designer, I often combine several printing and finishing techniques to produce a work of art, worthy of the event of your dreams.
If you have questions about how I can achieve your vision for you, give me a shout.